Zoo's, Sanctuaries, & Safari's
First let me explain a little about this post. We are from the US as you know and for us to be able to live in Swaziland and drive to South Africa is an amazing experience for us. We want to see, do and take in as much as we can. With that said, we have had a hard time finding information on things to do in South Africa, maybe it’s us, maybe we aren’t researching properly but it is our experience. We can search and maybe find some places but there isn’t much information or reviews other than what the company has on their websites. So usually we go to place based on referrals from others or what we do find online. Sometimes we regret it later, but no matter what we will take pictures and write our opinion on the place so that maybe we can help someone know what to do if they visit this part of the world. Also, I do not in anyway condone or support caging wild animals on any level. I think breeding in captivity or capturing wild animals to put them on display is just wrong. Being in Africa has brought some questions to light for me, I say I don’t support these type of behaviors but as a whole is that true? Most of us do go to zoo’s, right? Some of us have had the pleasure of going on a safari or two, right? Is there any comparison to the pro’s and con’s of places like Lion Park in Johannesburg, Hlane in Swaziland and a Zoo around the world? Are we hypocrites by saying the Zoo is ok but the Lion Park is not, do we even say that?
In the states we don’t have the wild animals within driving distance so we take our kids to the zoo’s or aquariums so is that wrong of us, are we supporting animals being caged? I know for me, I have always wanted my children to love animals, to respect them and to learn about them as much as possible. I have always found ways to teach them or show them about the world. So I have taken them to any and every possible place that I could in our area. We have been to zoo’s, aquariums, big cat rescue centers in NC and so on from the time that they were very little. Our schools even do fieldtrips to the zoo’s. Is that wrong, are we encouraging and supporting caging animals? Zoo’s are nothing more than upscale caged facilities in a way right? Is there any difference in these attractions? I will briefly discuss a few of the arguments of each in this blog. Again this is just my opinion as are all of my blogs.
I can’t speak for all safari’s but a few that we have been to, have huge amounts of land but are fenced in at some point, is that not considered caged to some degree?. The animals are considered wild with very little or no human contact other than the vehicles that come through to observe them. But they do get use to the cars and are not afraid of them. They do get to be in their natural habitat and act like they would in the wild with the exception of having to stay within the boundaries of the safari’s land. I know from reading that a few Safari’s do not have fencing of any form and are completely and totally wild animals, but again these animals become desensitized to the cars and the presence of people watching them. Then you also have some safari’s that are for trophy hunters, where they can hunt, kill and display the wild animals.
Most of the safari’s that we have been too (remember we aren’t expert’s and have only been to a few) have some fencing to protect the public and neighboring communities as well as possibly protecting the animals from each other so that they can promote breeding. With the population of humans increasing and we are encroaching on the territories of wild animals so I see the need for the fencing and at these places that I have been usually have 100’s or more acres fenced, giving the animals a sense of freedom. It also protects certain animals from poachers, supposedly (although some places still have poaching present – the poaching laws are just not strict enough in some countries). With a safari regardless of the type, we are entering the animals habitat and are doing so at our own risk. With a safari you cannot interact with the animals, only observe them from a safe distance. I also seen that in the States that we have some “safari parks” and you can interact with certain animals by feeding them food provided by the park as you drive through, which is really blurring the line of attraction and wild.
Zoo’s are well maintained, well established facilities, with very educated and trained care takers. They offer people the chance to see animals up close in a safe environment. They also protect the animals and try to encourage breeding, which could be useful in endangered animals. Some of the people that goes to zoo’s would otherwise never see or learn about the animals that are in the zoo’s. It is very educational for the children. The animals are in a way caged up, in living quarters and are on display. In a zoo, we get to view the animals from a safe advantage. Zoo’s offer some protection from poachers, extinction, and habitat loss. At a zoo, sometimes they will allow interaction with certain animals, they also offer educational seminars where they may bring out the animals to show as they talk about them (example: the bird’s of prey). Some zoo’s are involved in some amazing research on animals and they provide funding for projects across the globe, so that accounts for something, right? Zoo’s maybe a true conservation for the future of these animals, especially endangered animals. If they take endangered animals and use their expertise to encourage breeding and then place them back into the wild, that will be amazing, right? But is that what happens at zoo’s? I have always loved zoo’s because of the joy it does bring to the kids faces and to my own. Before coming to Africa, I never imagined that I would see a lion on a safari so going the zoo was the only way to enjoy and learn about them. But after my experiences in Africa I now question zoo’s and places similar to that.
Sanctuaries are a safe haven for wild animals. They rescue or take in animals that can either no longer live in the wild or who have been removed and raised outside of the wild as pets or show animals. They do not sell, breed, buy or trade their animals. Some sanctuaries are rehabilitate and release centers that will try to introduce animals back into the wild. Usually these facilities are not for profit and also do research on animal behavior. Some offer educational experiences for the public as well. Some facilities allow human interaction and visits while some centers actually try to limit the interaction the animals have with humans so that they learn to be more wild like. They will use puppets to feed humans so that these animals do not associate humans with food (to me this sounds like a good idea). The pro’s and con’s of limiting the human interactions on sanctuaries are hugely debatable.
An article that I read stated that most animal activist were for animal sanctuaries because they rescue wild animals from bad situations but were against zoo’s because they cage wild animals for our entertainment. It stated that both zoo’s and sanctuaries put the animals on display, may charge admission, cage the animals and are usually non-profit organizations. They state that the main difference is how the animals are obtained; zoo’s breed, sell or buy the animals and sanctuaries rescue them from situations and only if they cannot live in the wild.
The bottom line I guess is personal opinion because the research out there has a wide array of statistics, opinions and research attached to all sides. You have to make your own decision on whether or not you should visit a place and if it fits your beliefs. But some things to consider is that in the wild some animals like elephants have large families (maybe 100 in the herd) and these bonds are naturally formed. In captivity these animals are forced to form bonds with animals that may not be “family”, yes they end up creating the bond out of the need for family but is it a true bond? In the wild animals will walk over 40 miles a day, grazing, hunting, sleeping, living wherever they choose. In captivity they may or may not get that experience. There has been some research that suggest wild animals live longer in the wild then they do in captivity. In the wild predators stalk, hunt and graphically kill their prey. Truly wild animals never get use to a car driving by, nor do they relies on humans to feed them chunks of food and they don’t have names that answer to.
As for my opinion: Well I honestly do not know, I do enjoy seeing the animals up close and learning about them and maybe that is selfish. But, I do not like to see them caged up. I hate to see the animals “catch” or “show off” for their food, nor do I like to see them thrown chunks of meat. I do not want to hear that a place sells their animals for “killing” safari’s and I love places that protect their animals from poachers! I love to hear that places like Hlane allow the animals to hunt their food because to me that is what being wild is!!! I love to see the animals in their natural habitat and watch them go about their normal routines like we aren’t there and see the interaction with their young or other members of their groups. So I guess my opinion is as mixed as the research is. But that is the best part of being human – we can decide for ourselves what we want to see and what we want to support. Maybe a child visiting the zoo will be intrigued by the visit to learn so much about the animals and have an interest in it that they grow up to be one of the best activist for animal reform and protection. Maybe seeing a sanctuary will encourage people understand the harmful affects that we are having on these animals and will help change our ways to protect their future. These places wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a need or want for them and none of these places seem to be going away any time soon, they are only gaining in popularity so instead of attacking each of them or each other, lets just give some unbiased, educated information and opinions and let everyone decide for themselves.
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